Despite the Equal Pay Act being passed in 1963, which requires equal pay for equal work and prohibits gender-based compensation discrepancies, the overall wage gap in America persists, with women making on average 77 cents for every dollar men make. In January 2016, states including California and New York passed newer and more stringent equal pay laws, and, federally, the Department of Labor enacted a new rule requiring greater transparency for federal contractor and subcontractor pay. Nilan Johnson Lewis labor and employment attorney Joe Schmitt, who provides preventative and litigation services to employers regarding equal pay matters, predicts more states will address the issue in 2016.
He notes other states are considering legislation that would change how “comparable work” is defined, restrict litigation defenses, increase penalties and empower employees to discuss wages more. To ensure pay is equal across genders and to prevent discriminatory salary practices from being established, if only inadvertently, Schmitt counsels employers to completely rethink their internal practices. Schmitt advises employers to conduct a fair and detailed analysis of their employee compensation data to see if there are disparities that need to be addressed, noting that the EEOC or Attorney General’s office would do the same analysis, should a complaint ever be brought forward. He further recommends comparing job titles across offices, and with analogous roles, not just identical job titles.
“Even though one person with the word ‘manager’ in their title may manage a completely different aspect of the company, the EEOC would say those are all managers and need to be compared,” Schmitt notes. “Unless an employer can provide verifiable data demonstrating that the different jobs deserve different compensation, they would need to be paid harmoniously.”